General Motors is expected to file for bankruptcy protection today.
The GM that helped move the world from horses to Chevys and Cadillacs is expected to file for bankruptcy protection Monday. The new GM that emerges sometime in the future will be leaner â€” unsaddled from much of its debt and labor cost disadvantages that contributed to tens of billions of dollars of losses. It will also be almost three-quarters owned by U.S. taxpayers.Â Source: AP/USA Today
But GM’s headquarters can’t be made leaner as easily.
I saw GM’s Renaissance Center, now branded as Ren Cen, in 2006 while returning to the U.S. from a vacation in CanadaÂ The iconic headquarters gleamed in the sunlight but failedÂ to impress me.Â It symbolizes the old GM — bigger than life, too big in fact.Â Disconnected.Â It is like tail fins on a Cadillac in an era of Honda Accords.
The history is interesting, starting life with Ford, not GM:
On November 24, 1971, Henry Ford II, then chairman of the board of directors of Ford Motor Company, announced the Renaissance Center project to the Detroit Common Council.Â One year later, site clearance for the Center began.Â On July 1, 1976 the first office tower (Tower 100) was opened.Â A formal dedication was held on April 15, 1977 for the four, 39-floor office towers and the 73-story hotel.Renaissance Center Phase II, Towers 500 and 600, was opened in 1981, as a separate venture developed by subsidiaries of Ford Motor Land Development Corporation and Rockefeller Center, Inc. and purchased by ANR Ren-Cen, Inc. in 1984.
On May 16, 1996, General Motors announced the purchase of the Renaissance Center for use as its global headquarters and later announced a $500 million renovation of the Center.Â The GM Renaissance Center is now home to more than 6,000 GM workers and 4,000 Center tenant employees.
- The total square footage of the GM Renaissance Center is 5.5 million.Â The office towers include 2.2 million square feet of space; 230,000 square feet is dedicated to retail space. The Marriott Detroit at the Renaissance Center is one of the tallest hotels in the world with 1,298 guest rooms.
- Construction on the Ren Cen began May 22, 1973 (Phase I).
- Project architects were by John Portman & Associates.
- The Ren Cen has its own zip code â€“ 48243.
- The GM Renaissance Center sits on 14 acres.
- There are four 39-story towers (508â€™ high each).
- The 73 story 1,298 room hotel (Marriott) is 726â€™ high and 188â€™ in diameter.
- There is a 5-story glass enclosed atrium (GM Wintergarden).
- There is a 12 ft. wide glass circulation walkway with access to all four towers (for exercise purposes, you need to walk around 8 times for one mile).Â Source: gmrencen.com
Like so many projects of the era, the large site was cleaned and started over.Â Shedding the past, like bankruptcy.Â But in the urban renewal version the result is bloatedÂ and detached.
The headquarters isn’t fully to blame for the disconnected from Detroit.Â I-375, also known as the Chrysler Expressway, does a good job of separating Detroit from it’s waterfront.
The U. S. auto industry is getting a long overdue overhaul.Â New emissions standards will alter the automobiles we see in the future.Â Cities too are slowly undoing past urban renewal mistakes.Â The scale of GM’s Renaissance Center means it will likely be with us long after the new GM emerges from bankruptcy.Â How unfortunate.